A potent and clinically performed work that excavates the bleakest extremities of home-grown terrorism.
The Economist | Review
MKA Pop-Up Theatre, 73 Nicholson St, Abbotsford, until December 16
IN JULY, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik killed more than 70 people, many of them children. It’s raw and risky subject matter for a play. The Economist probes this still open wound through incisive theatrical technique, fine ensemble performance and Van Badham’s brilliant direction.
We enter on the actors dressed in red jumpers and fawn slacks, making a range of fatuously jingoistic gestures. Comedy plays a crucial role – not simply in exposing the idiocies of extreme nationalism – but in tracing the limits of representation when faced with atrocity, and in drawing attention to the trivial seeds from which horror springs.
Sharp, supercharged scenic fragments whip between barking comedy and spiralling alienation, but the political critique remains in service to the black constellation of human character it delineates.
Badham’s decision to employ gender-blind casting works wonders. Zoey Dawson as Berwick, the Breivik-figure, slouches haplessly through emasculating events. She ironically compensates through devices – steroids, plastic surgery, a World of Warcraft obsession – all likely to exacerbate the problem.
But it’s the meticulous planning and deception and the sheer will to evil that haunts you. Dawson’s address to imminent victims, in police uniform, leaves a chilling sense of betrayal. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Dawson is serene and phlegmatic, with a malign authority that reverberates in the mind as darkness falls on stage.
The script does have room for improvement and one of the few fictitious insertions – the love interest Freya – doesn’t gel.
The Economist remains a potent and clinically performed work that excavates the bleakest extremities of home-grown terrorism. It’s a daring finale for the dynamos at MKA, whose energy and drive have seen them mount almost non-stop play readings and performances of new Australian work throughout the year. Well worth seeing.